Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Off Getting Married.

Well, I'm off to Kluang to get hitched.

Will blog again a week after the wedding, with hopefully good pics and possibly rants about meddlesome relatives. Kinokuniya also gave me a new book to review yesterday, so I suppose you can expect a new review soon* as well!

Have a happy 50th merdeka, my friends!

*As soon as The Star possibly can, that is. Feh.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Jules Verne in Malay: Translators Wanted.

Looks like PTS wants translators to translate the works of Jules Verne into Malay. Interested? Go sign up.

I personally would love to see this project come to fruition, as long as the works are translated with complete and utter care. (There's also a Sherlock Holmes translation project ongoing of which I am keen on as well.)

But I have to wonder. Will these translators translate Jules Verne's works from English? I doubt PTS will be able to find enough good translators to translate from the original French. If this is so, how true will the translations be to the originals? It's bad enough that some of the original English translations--which I assume PTS will work from since they are out of copyright and therefore free--are considered not up to snuff. Even Jules Verne lamented about the translations of his time, saying, "I’m not surprised that the translations you’ve been speaking to me about are bad ... But we can do nothing about it, absolutely nothing."

But here PTS has the tabula rasa. They can do something about shoddy translation, and the first act is not to translate from a free source like The Gutenberg Project which is claimed to harbour the defective translations of Jules Verne's works. If PTS cannot find translators that can translate from the original French, then I hope PTS would at least consider translating from better and more reliable sources (for example, from the Penguin Classic editions, although I realise this might cost money, and I'm not really sure if they're that reliable a translation anyway).

I respect PTS as a forward-thinking publisher of Malay books and I hope they really consider this problem properly. It's not enough to make Jules Verne accessible to Malay readers... you have to give them quality reading too.

Just my 2 sen.

(Ted would love to see a Malay translation of H.P. Lovecraft.)

Saramago means "Wild Radish".

The New York Times profiles Nobel Prize Winner Jose Saramago. I particularly liked the factoid about how he got his surname:
“When I showed up, aged 7, for my first day of school in Lisbon, I had to present my identity papers,” [Saramago] told me. It was only then his parents discovered that the last name printed on his birth certificate was not their family name, de Sousa. The village clerk had instead registered the baby as “Saramago,” or “wild radish.”

“It was an insulting nickname villagers gave my father,” Saramago explained. “The clerk wrote it perhaps because he was drunk, perhaps as a prank. My father wasn’t very happy, but if that was his son’s official name, well, then, he had to take it, too. I think never before in history has a son named his father.”

Friday, 24 August 2007

One More Week.

On this day next week, I'll be a married man! Gee willikers! I am so nervous...

Monday, 20 August 2007

Amir's Book Launch.

From Amir Muhammad's blog:
Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things will be launched on

Sunday, 16 September
Gallery One, The Annexe, Central Market Kuala Lumpur.

The book will be on sale for RM20. Murah je bang.

All are welcome.
More details when you click on the link.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Cloud Parade Day.

It rained heavily yesterday afternoon. I was jogging naked as usual, when the skies split open and vomited a voluminous amount of water upon me. The water droplets fell heavy and hard and my face and shoulders and private parts hurt. I stopped for a moment to decide whether to seek for shelter or to continue jogging. I didn't want to stop jogging just because it was raining. I was on a roll and I was about to achieve my daily target. But if I continued I would have risked bumping into a tree or falling down a drain because the downpour was so heavy, visibility of my surroundings was minimal at best.

As I stood in the rain, braving the pounding of the constant dropping of water upon me, a small cloud fell out from the skies and descended towards me. I would like to describe this particular cloud as being made out of billions of droplets of condensed water vapour but it was not at all like that. It was not a normal cloud at all, though who am I to say what a normal cloud looks like or not, because this particular cloud was really the first cloud I ever had the opportunity to meet and greet. But as I was saying, this cloud was different from what I would have thought a cloud would be like. It was instead made of wool, and when the cloud bumped into me accidentally, I could feel its cloudy fluffiness was not that of water vapour but that of high-grade rabbit wool from the far-off land of New Burrow.

"Oh, excuse me," said the cloud, not looking in my direction. "The rain is so thick, I can hardly see. I'm so wet with rain, the water has literally pulled the wool over my eyes."

It was true. I could see two flaps of wool partially covering what appeared to me as eye slits. "No problem," I answered.

The cloud stood shaking and shivering, and there was an embarrassing silence between us. To break this spell, I ventured a small question. "Tell me O cloud: what are you doing out in this ghastly rain?" I asked.

The cloud seemed shocked that I would ask such a question. "I could very well ask you the same thing," the cloud said, a little hurt.

Had I touched a sensitive issue? This intrigued me a little. "Well, I asked you first," I said.

The cloud harrumphed and it shivered and sprayed some water as it did so. "I do not expect you landmans, or whatever you call yourself, to understand. Today, noblest of days, is Cloud Parade Day, and all the clouds worth their vapour are out parading and showing their best cloud poses and stances for all the world to see."

The cloud straightened itself, as if to show it too could pose in a distinct way.

"Cloud Parade Day?" I asked. "Is that why it's raining so hard?"

"Heavens no! This awful rain must be the work of the dogs and the cats. They've always had a vendetta against us clouds. Anyway, I must be off. Tootles!" And with that, the rabbit wool cloud flew back up into the rain.

I stood there with my hand shielding my eyes from the rain trying to look up at the cloud flying away. I stood there and kept thinking. What was it like to wear rabbit wool while jogging in the rain?

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville.

I mentioned Jean-Luc Godard's retro-futuristic noir movie, Alphaville, in my review of After Dark. Luck must shine on all of us, for Google Video has it up on their intertubes for you to digest.

Wikipedia, as always, has a nice summary of what Alphaville is about:
Alphaville combines the genres of dystopian science fiction and film noir. Although set far in the future on another planet, there are no special effects or elaborate sets; instead, the film was shot in real locations in Paris, the night-time streets of the capital becoming the streets of Alphaville, while modernist glass and concrete buildings represent the city's interiors. In addition, the characters refer to twentieth century events; for example, the hero describes himself as a Guadalcanal veteran.

Eddie Constantine plays Lemmy Caution, a trenchcoat-wearing secret agent. Constantine had already played this role in dozens of previous films; the character was originally created by British pulp novelist Peter Cheyney. However, in Alphaville, director Jean-Luc Godard moves Caution away from his usual twentieth century setting, and places him in a futuristic sci-fi dystopia, the technocratic dictatorship of Alphaville.
Enjoy. It's a really weird movie (in a good way), if you haven't seen it before.

Friday, 10 August 2007

REVIEW: After Dark by Haruki Murakami.

I was beginning to give up hope that The Star would ever publish this, but those wily editors seem to have remembered after all.

Behold! My review of Haruki Murakami's After Dark:
Different approach

Review by TED MAHSUN

After Dark

Author: Haruki Murakami
ISBN: 978-1846550478
Publisher: Harvill Secker, 191 pages

WHILE Haruki Murakami has his throng of fans and is constantly applauded for his works, he has also been criticised of being repetitive. Critics have denounced his books as being nothing but the same tired story of a directionless male protagonist going nowhere.

As if in response to this, Murakami took a different tack in Kafka on the Shore, his previous novel, where he discarded his usual first-person narrative, and wrote the book from a third-person perspective and changed his protagonist from a directionless young man ... to a directionless young boy.

Okay, so it’s not much of a change, but I guess he’s got to start somewhere. In After Dark, his latest novel, Murakami goes out on a full experimental journey not only for the novel’s characters but also for himself. It’s certainly a different beast from what he’s written before. The novel is still Murakami-esque, but thankfully it’s not more of the same thing.

Befitting its title, the action takes place in the wee hours between midnight and dawn. The novel eschews the directionless male protagonist, and instead focuses on a number of interesting individuals who live the nocturnal city life. How the novel actually does this is one of the elements that separates After Dark from Murakami’s other books.

We meet these individuals through the lens of a narrative camera, which is probably a character in itself. The opening pages take the reader swooping from the skies like a big-budget flick: “Through the eyes of a high-flying night bird, we take in the scene from mid-air. In our broad sweep, the city looks like a single gigantic creature – or more like a single collective entity created by many intertwining organisms. Countless arteries stretch to the ends of its elusive body, circulating a continuous supply of fresh blood cells, sending out new data and collecting the old, sending out new consumables and collecting the old, sending out new contradictions and collecting the old.”

The camera zooms in on an all-night fast food restaurant where we meet our first character, Mari Asai, who sits alone reading a book. She is met unexpectedly by her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Takahashi, a student who prefers playing the trombone to studying law. This sets the ball rolling for the narrative camera to take us to meet the many strange night creatures that inhabit Tokyo.

There’s Kaoru, the manager of Hotel Alphaville, named after Jean-Luc Godard’s movie; Shirakawa, the white-collar worker who may or may not have abused a prostitute in that hotel; and Eri Asai, Mari’s sister, who seems to be trapped in her sleep.

The combined influences of film noir and horror blend together to create a mysterious and somewhat mystical kind of atmosphere in a city known to be on the cutting edge of technology.

After Dark is a short read but its mysteries and puzzles might entice the discerning reader to give the book another go once it’s been read.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Hooray! A children's book.

I have been giggling non-stop (yes, I'm immature, so sue me) since I saw the cover of this children's book published by PTS. Man... couldn't they have added an extra "i" or something?

*snicker snicker snicker*

(Title translates to "Hooray, we won!")

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Tan Twan Eng in the Booker Longlist!

Woots! Tan Twan Eng's Gift of Rain has made it to the Man Booker Longlist! He's up against a strong crowd with the likes of Mohsin Hamid and Ian McEwan, but I'm certainly rooting for Mr. Tan.

(Via Eric Forbes).

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Man-made Tornados As Energy Source.

This isn't book related but I'm blogging this to remind me to write a sf novel one day that has this concept--generating tornados on demand and using them to power our cities!

This so-crazy-it-might-just-work idea could only have come from a Caractacus Potts-type of character, and so it has. Louis Michaud, who came up with the concept in his garage in Toronto,
...has spent the past 40 years studying tornados and hurricanes, and is convinced it's possible to engineer and control powerful, full-scale whirlwinds and harness their energy to produce emission-free electricity.

Forget wind farms and their intermittent operation: the future of electricity generation could be tornado power on demand.

Michaud has adapted this process to create what he calls a vortex engine, and has patented the invention in both Canada and the United States. Recently, he formed a company called AVEtec Energy Corp. with an aim to turning this unconventional – and to many, unthinkable – approach to electricity generation into a commercial reality.
The tornados are generated by a conceptual machine called a "Vortex Engine", which would run off waste energy from a power plant and would create 200 megawatts of baseload power. That's enough to power 200,000 homes.

It's an idea totally ripe for a science fictional take on it. In fact, the article even predicts that this will be the case:
It's a scary thought, and a great basis for a movie script, bringing together the don't-mess-with-nature themes of the films Twister and Jurassic Park. One can imagine the back of this DVD case: "A monster man-made tornado loses control and jumps out of its pen, terrorizing a community and ripping a path through dozens of harmless wind and solar farms. Rated R."
What's really interesting to me is this:
If people accept it, the potential is unlimited. [Michaud] says down the road, hundreds of vortex engines could be located in the ocean along the equator, where the warm tropical water would provide an endless source of energy.
Along the equator? That's us! And placing the vortex engines along the equator would even cool the planet, helping to lessen the impact of the Greenhouse Effect.

But I think the real impact of such an application would be summarised thus:

Malaysians + [Technology to Control Nature] = Disaster = Awesome Science Fiction


The Book of Dust.

Philip Pullman talks about his upcoming sequel to his much-acclaimed His Dark Materials trilogy, and surprise, surprise, the sequel, called The Book of Dust, will deal with his beliefs on Atheism:
In an interview with Literary Review, Pullman says that The Book of Dust will contain his response to accusations that the previous three books portrayed organised religion as exclusively repressive.

“This is a big subject and I’m writing a big, big book in order to deal precisely with that question,” he tells the magazine. “I don’t want to anticipate it too much by switching a light on the answer now. The interesting – the curious – question is, if people can be helped by something that is palpably not true, is this better than denying the thing that is not true and not being helped?”
Well, well! Children's literature has come far since C.S. Lewis, eh? I'd say let some people be helped but don't let them go overboard.

However, I will be much interested in seeing how Lyra's adventures continue but I thought that her story was pretty much at a full stop after The Amber Spyglass. But then I don't really remember the story much, having read the trilogy years ago. (I don't even remember the name of the boy from the second book.)

Monday, 6 August 2007

Weekend Purchases.

We went to the Payless Warehouse Sale at the 3K Inn on Saturday. There were many books, as is usual with Payless's sales, but this time I found the selection wanting. The books were the same old books we've already seen and bought in previous warehouse sales. I decided to concentrate on finding books of genres that I had not bought before at a Payless sale.

I came out with two Dashiell Hammets, one Louis L'amour (don't ask), a book of writings by Marx and Engel (because I'm a closet socialist), and two classic sf books, Starburst by Frederick Pohl, and The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling (probably the third time I bought this oft-lost book). I also "accidentally" bought two sf novels which I have absolutely no idea how it got into my book pile. I only noticed them after the guy at the counter had already scanned them in, and by then it was too late to cancel (without making a big fuss). The big downer is that both the sf books are clearly targeted for girls, since the covers are drawn in that awfully gaudy Harlequin-type cover art. Yeesh.

Lesson in buying at a Payless Warehouse Sale:
Check your wares before checking out.

I also stopped by the 1Utama branch of MPH to redeem my RM15 worth of book vouchers they gave to people who pre-ordered Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Turns out they had some sort of Merdeka sale where every book had a 15% discount. I ended up buying Tobias Buckell's Crystal Rain for a mere RM15 even though it was worth more than twice that! Yay!

I chose to buy Crystal Rain because I had read the opening chapters which are available for free downloading at Mr Buckell's very neat website, and I found the concept of the book intriguing (even though the cover is completely, utterly crap). A steampunk setting with a Caribbean-inspired culture--obviously not your run-of-the-mill fantasy! I look forward to devouring it quite soon. There's already a sequel, Ragamuffin, but I'll get to that if I like this one.

Oh, and me and L also bought a pearl jade Perodua Viva on Saturday. It's the model with all the tricked out stuff like ABS, airbags, electronically-controlled side mirrors, machine guns, passenger-side ejector seat (in case Goldfinger's goonies got in), kitchen sink, etc. We thought maybe all those nifty tech would come in handy in a tight situation. Maybe.

True to its marketing campaign, it does bring out a lot of love. It sure is one enjoyable little car to drive. L was asking me what name we could give to it, since my Volkswagen Beetle is called George, and it was the obvious conclusion that the Viva would have a name as well. I didn't know what to call it. I told L that it wasn't up to us to give names to our cars, we had to wait until our cars told us their names. If a car had a personality, it would reveal its name soon enough.

And that's what happened with George and Dorothy (my mother's car, also a Volkswagen Beetle). They just revealed their names to us, out of the blue. It hasn't happened yet with the Viva, but L made a joke about us not knowing the Viva's name, saying it's probably secretly named Rumpelstiltskin. Unfortunately, the Viva has started becoming dangerously attached to that name... Maybe we shouldn't have talked about that in front of it? In any case, L hates that name, so no way we're calling our Viva that.

And such was the story of my weekend.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Visiting Gormenghast For The First Time.

This is the first paragraph of Mervyn Peake's classic, Titus Groan:
Gormenghast, that is, the main massing of the original stone, taken by itself would have displayed a certain ponderous architectural quality were it possible to have ignored the circumfusion of those mean dwellings that swarmed like an epidemic around its outer walls. They sprawled over the sloping earth, each one half way over its neighbour until, held back by the castle ramparts, the innermost of these hovels laid hold on the great walls, clamping themselves thereto like limpets to a rock. These dwellings, by ancient law, were granted this chill intimacy with the stronghold that loomed above them. Over their irregular roofs would fall throughout the seasons, the shadows of time-eaten buttresses, of broken and lofty turrets, and, most enormous of all, the shadow of the Tower of Flints. This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow.
Barely even half of the first page and already we are foreshadowed the tone of the book. Peake is a genius. Take a hike, Mr. Tolkien and your pussy midgets!

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Go Armoured Bears!

This extended preview of The Golden Compass, shown at the recent ComicCon, basically tells the whole story in little less than 5 minutes, but if you've already read the book, it's worth a look-see (yes, that was a spoiler warning). As for the movie itself, Nicole Kidman, Eva Green and armoured bears sold me. Yeah. I'm hyped and psyched and ready to watch it. Bring it out already.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Defending Bulwer-Lytton.

Jess Nevins has posted up his defense of Bulwer-Lytton's prose over at No Fear of the Future, saying that the Victorian writer wasn't all that bad:
But Bulwer-Lytton deserves better. Never mind that he wrote in the style of his era, and that to single him out for writing like his contemporaries is unjust. Never mind that other writers who are his stylistic inferiors are not targeted so; no sober critic would read Walter Scott or Fenimore Cooper, and then read Bulwer-Lytton, and declare that Bulwer-Lytton is more deserving of derision. Never mind that, as Jaime Weinman says, "It was a dark and stormy night" isn’t really that bad. (I can find several opening lines in Dickens that are worse).
Bulwer-Lytton is of course the inspiration for the infamous contest of bad (made-up) first lines for novels with his "It was a dark and stormy night" leading the way for other terrible prose-stylists.

It looks like they've also announced this year's winners for the Bulwer-Lytton contest, with the winning line won by Jim Gleeson:
Gerald began--but was interrupted by a piercing whistle which cost him ten percent of his hearing permanently, as it did everyone else in a ten-mile radius of the eruption, not that it mattered much because for them "permanently" meant the next ten minutes or so until buried by searing lava or suffocated by choking ash--to pee.
Do also check out the other entries, they're all wonderfully terrible!

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